Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Barely over the airbrushing of Clement Hurd half a decade ago, I have just discovered that the latest edition of Huckleberry Finn will be altered to reflect modern sensibilities by changing the character names "Nigger Jim" and "Injun' Joe" to "African-American Jim" and "Previous-Owner-American Joe".

Okay, revisionist history is bad when we do it about Auschwitz, but okay when we do it with 19th Century American literature, airbrushing the racism out of a book which is often about racism? This makes sense to someone?

What other works might we want to revise to bring into line with modern sensibilities so as to not overtask the minds of the young?
Macbeth: Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand?
I should stop, don't touch, and tell an adult.
John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am a way, a truth, and a lifestyle choice: no person cometh unto the Father, but by really wanting to."

29 comments:

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Oliver Twist: "Please Capitalist Running-Dog Overlord, can I have some more? But only if it's gluten free."

og said...

The "abridged" editions of a lot of stuff I read as a child already have a lot of crap ganked out of them. I recently read "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Three Musketeers" and "Cyrano" in the unexpurgated original on Kindle.

Good lord.

I got my hands on a lot of Josh Billings when I was in grade school, and Twain is quite mild by comparison. I suppose that's part of the reason Billings isn't as popular.

This revisionist crap has been going on a looong time. I was still in high school when they changed "Little black sambo" to "Little Brave Sambo".

When Joni Mitchell sang "Give me spots on my apples" in Big Yellow Taxi, she got what SHE wanted. Maybe you need to write a protest song; I'd sugest a Johnny Rotten style diatribe: "Keep your filthy mitts off my books you %*$*$&8**&$99%%*^!!!"

Joanna said...

I've read Huck Finn twice for school (high school and college) and both times we used expurgated copies. Which was hilarious, given that each time we spent at least one class period discussing the racism controversy. None of us could really see what the issue was, because for all we knew, there wasn't one.

Reminds me of a short story I read a while back where a high school student wants to study Hamlet in class, but protests by various groups result in such censorship that all they get is the two-line "Methinks it lacks of twelve" exchange.

Stuart the Viking said...

I am happy that my Mother has thought to amass a huge library of clasics printed by a company that seems to care about the authenticity of what they print. My kids will be able to read Hucklberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, and many others as they were written rather than the bastardized versions that are becoming popular.

What next? Are they going to revise Roots by changing all the parts that referred to Kunta Kinte as a slave?

Pretending that racism didn't happen is the wrong way to go about teaching our children that it was wrong.

s

John Venlet said...

Watch out, Tam, your penned revisions to Macbeth and John 14:6 may get you a job offer for "Czar of Literature Revisions."

Joshkie said...

There are people fighting back like David Barton. Who will be one of those hold lectures on the Constitution for the United States of America at the request of Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) House of Representatives, Tea Party Caucus.

His website Wall Builders has a lot of good stuff if your are a Histroy Buff.

http://www.wallbuilders.com/

He's one of those who prepared the written texts for the the fight we had in Texas over the text books.

Just wanted to say the fights not lost yet.

Eck! said...

I read Huck and Tom for the first time back in 1964.. remember 64? They were not expunged and the reality is people used those words but the hatred was often greater in 64 than when written.

the 'lectronic realm makes it so easy to do 9999[R$slave$owned man$$]$$. I'm old school, TECO works.


Eck!

bluesun said...

Biblical Revisionism has always pissed me off. Doing the same thing for Mark Twain makes me feel no better. Anything done for the sake of Political Correctness should be made fun of and laughed at, it's the only way to get people to realize how ridiculous it it...

Sherm said...

The red letter for Christ speaking is a nice touch.
I take my Twain seriously purchasing acid free editions from The Library of America (loa.org). Everyone should read their Mississippi Writings volume (Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi, and Pudden' Head Wilson) is a must. Roughing It and A Tramp Abroad are not far behind.
Mark Twain will survive this latests blind assault on his writing.

staghounds said...

When I saw this the other day, my first reaction was actually surprise that it took this long.

jeffreyquick said...

Joanna,
you read bowdlerized Twain in COLLEGE?! Not to diss your education or anything, but what kind of school did you go to? We read Merchant of Venice at Univ. of Michigan (aka "Jew U" vs "Moo U", MI State) in 1974, and it wasn't an issue, except as part of the literary discussion. I read about "N-word Jim" in elementary school, and fully got the issue without any coaching

Sabra said...

All of the news stories and blog posts I've read on this issue (admittedly not a whole hell of a lot), and Tam, you're the only one to write out Nigger Jim. Given how heavily we have censored ourselves, is it any wonder we're censoring the books?

(And no, I'm not advocating for wholesale use of the word nigger again. I just find it telling that we're removing it from our discussion of its removal, while arguing against the same.)

Ancient Woodsman said...

It won't end there.

The Mona Lisa will be renamed 'Isabella'...being the most popular girl's baby name now.
Cthulu will be changed to 'Bob', being easier to say. Dracula will be only some old dude with a sunlight allergy who looks at people funny. Sherlock & Dr. Watson will finally get married, an poor misunderstood Holden just has a good cry - and that horrible 'f' word is nowhere to be seen...

Outside arts, there will be no general elections - parties will appoint a President and so forth at their conventions; alternating every four years to appease the T-ball-raised 'everyone wins' mentality.

And there will be no View from the Porch on our taxed internet. Porches are old-fashioned; it will be a Panorama from a Custom Window by the Breakfast Nook.

The horror. The horror.

Don Meaker said...

This is the kind of thing I wish was on the back page of Guns and Ammo, and occasionally was in Jeff Cooper's day.

Brian J. Noggle said...

Uh, Tam, you think they'll let Eddie the Eagle's teachings into literature like that?

perlhaqr said...

I wonder if they'll start censoring rap videos.

Matt G said...

David Glasgow Farragut: "Darn the torpedoes! Proceed at a reasonable and prudent pace ahead!"

Stuart the Viking said...

I agree with Sabra.

The word nigger has become inbued with power far beyond it's worth. I believe that this is the unintended consequence of the very movement to remove that word from society.

In fantacy, often a wizzard is one who has researched arcane literature and has discovered words that have power. When uttered, such words bring about physical change to the world around them. They call storms, tame savage beasts, make the damsel's panties fall off, etc.

In reality, words only have the power that we, as a society, give them. The only way to defeat the power of such a word is to accept it, use it, and quit freaking out over it. After all, it's just a word.

s

Joanna said...

Not to diss your education or anything, but what kind of school did you go to?

Liberal Arts. At least I got in-state tuition.

Anonymous said...

Having read all of the un touched and un abashed publishings of Mr. Clemens. I think you lose all perspective by reading the new (Blanket Statement)versions. His use of dialect and speach as it pertained to the time frame he wrote about is what makes it so interesting to read!


Walt

Anonymous said...

Leaving alone for a moment the historical fact that, regardless of intent, censorship and ethnic cleansing are two of the primary markers of totalitarianism...

How in the hell is it possible or legal for any entity, public or private, to alter a work of art without the artist's consent or recompense?

And btw, if ever there was a sin committed equally by both extremes of the political and ideological spectrums, this would be it.

AT

Justthisguy said...

What I want to know, is why aren't we allowed to watch the un-censored version of "Dam Busters?" Wing-Commander Gibson's black Labrador Retriever, hight "Nigger", played a very important part in the film.

Matt G said...

Of all the things not to get redacted, we get Chicago Spambot Cleaning Service.
:rolleyes:

Tam said...

Spam goes down the memory hole as soon as it gets noticed around these parts. :)

staghounds said...

"What white person decided that there was one single word that would drive black people crazy?"

-Dave Chappelle

Mousie762 said...

Beautiful snark, I love the redacted versions.

John said...

Perhaps "Huck" should be read in tandem with the "Last Days of Ptolemy Grey" by Walter Mosley."

http://www.amazon.com/Last-Days-Ptolemy-Grey/dp/1594487723/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1294321156&sr=1-1

I like Mosley, and he surely lays out his stories and characters without rose colored glasses. Which reminds me of my friend Willie Lee's observation of life in general: "It don' be who you is. It's how you be's." Willie's Daddy was the first man of color in his Louisiana parish to be ALLOWED to own his own 18-wheel rig. Of course, that's because part of the deal was to run 'shine for the local syndicate, so no white folks would have to take the periodic 'cleaning up crime' fall. Hey, it was a job, and Willie stated that his Daddy was always given a few weeks warning of the bust, so's he could get his affairs in order to gone to prison for a year or couple.

And, BTW,'nigger' as a pejorative racist term SHOULD cease to have any attached social value, given it's widespread entertainment application. I'm always amused when I read old Mountain Man narratives, wherein a real salty hivernant would refer to himself and his trapping compadres as 'nigguhs' or 'this nigger', first person.

BTW, part two, I absolutely have loathed racism since I saw Bull Connor's dogs attacking civil rights demostrators on the TV set, as a young teen. Today, i equally loath the hypocrisy of politics and philosophy that can so warp reality, that Huck must be expurgated. And, the while, our same wanna-be-rulers-of-all laud the 'comedians' who denigrate and debase their own people with material so raunchy, that even this old hippie finds it kinda raw.

To that point, so far as 'nigger" usage: those alleged comedic programs can be readily watched by any child with cable TV access, so who exactly, is being protected by DER Censor? If anything, 'nigger' has been totally devalued as a shock and no-no word in that context. This latest outcry is just another shovel full of SOS, on the road to the Sheep Pastures, wherein the flower-bedecked flocks may safely graze,until ready for co-operative consumption by their masters.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
verify, for two hundred: What is "nornomal"?

Lissa said...

"Previous-Owner-American" Joe is DELICIOUS :)

Mattexian said...

All I can say is, they better not touch my much-beloved "Blazing Saddles"! If they take out "the N-word" (near?) the movie will be less than a hour long!